Blackwing 602 and a Pentel Black Polymer 999, both not worth it
This was originally in my zine, Pencil Snob, but I thought it would be a good one to put on the site.
I’m sure if you’ve heard of anything in pencils currently made that isn’t a Dixon Ticonderoga, you’ve heard about the Blackwing 602. There is a Blackwing 602 out now, but it is not the original Blackwing 602. Cal Cedar got the rights to produce a new pencil under the old name, but they don’t have the same lead formula, which was the most important part (though I will admit it is close enough).
The original Blackwing was produced by Eberhard Faber, and it has a cult following. It was a much softer writing oriented pencil than most people were used to when introduced (think a 2B to a 4B), in a world where pencils were a little grittier and harder (the harder the pencil the longer they last!). It was also potentially the first pencil impregnated with wax, making it an even smoother writer.
But those are no longer produced. People love the story and the people who used them (John Steinbeck, Chuck Jones, Richard Dreyfus in Jaws, etc.) so they want one of the originals. I know I did. With supply low, and demand high, that means they cost money. $50 is probably the cheapest you’ll find a single pencil unsharpened, 12 packs go for $500 to $1000 or so depending on the version (the ones from the 1930’s fetch a higher price).
It’s no better than a pencil produced today (the Mitsubishi Hi-uni in 2B feels like a close dupe, the Tombow Mono 100 in 2B is similar, and the Palomino Blackwing 602 is honestly close enough as well). In fact, I would say most pencils produced today are just as good or better.
The Pentel Black Polymer 999 (pictured above as well) also fetches a high price. I bought 3 of these for 50 bucks, and it was 100% not worth it. The paint lacquer is thin, feels cheap, and I didn’t find the lead inside to be worth the price of a 12 pack of Mitusbishi Hi-unis for a singular pencil.
If you find any of these for a deal, they are fun to try, but don’t expect the results to be mind blowing. This is pretty much true for all vintage pencils. They are pretty and fun to have, but at the end of the day a readily available modern version exists and is 10 to 100 times cheaper.